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The Guild Wars franchise. There was a point in time where I considered the world of Tyria my second home. I'm not thoroughly convinced that point has ended yet, but, as this is a review, I will keep it as objective as I can as I go through what, in my opinion, are some of the fundamental points of open world RPGs and MMOs. Those being the casual bases of Lore, Tone, and Customization as well as the more competitive Control, Skill, and Team play. As this is a review, be aware that spoilers could follow, though I will keep it to a minimum.
Being someone who spent a good portion of time in the first Guild Wars game, I was already somewhat familiar with the lore of Tyria: the six gods of the Humans, the spirits of the Norn, the Eternal Alchemy of the Asura, and the legions of the Charr. I found slight disappointment that the continuation of that lore was seemed to be kept more to interactive objects in the overworld. Don't get me wrong, there are parts in the story where jests or mentions during dialogue for individual pieces of the lore, but without prior knowledge, it might seem out of context or just commonplace. However, the focus of the games storyline was tended more toward a personal experience, being able to make choices that influences what you do as you progress, and this, I felt, built on a more personal lore that you can make of your own character.
Tone I define as the games ability to generate a feeling that I am my character, that I can almost feel the same fear, sorrow, and anger at various parts of the game. This is something that I feel like Guild Wars 2 does fairly well. As you progress through your personal story, you get an attachment, both to the character you interact with as well as yourself. When a fellow comrade sacrifices themselves to allow you and the rest of the group to escape, or when someone falls during a battle with the Risen, I felt my own remorse. Perhaps you aren't one who let's yourself get that attached to a game, but, with each tug on a different emotional string, I feel you also get a greater sense of accomplishment when you manage to overcome it. The downside is that after a point, I started being able to see certain things coming, and thus, was not as affected by them as I probably could've been.
Customization can range from the style and color of your gear to how many potential builds you can go for. This is something I feel Guild Wars 2 does very well in, with skills that adapt to your preferred weapons, trait lines that grant passive benefits to your abilities, as well as customizing both battle gear and "town clothes" with appearance and a variety of dye colors. While it could be argued that not being able to choose the skills you can use with a given weapon can be frustrating, when you find the right combination of weapons and the skills you can choose, you can notice the effect it has on your game. Crafting can also play into customization as, with a sufficient crafting level, you can craft an items with stats that you want and use an in-game stone to make it look like something else, within the same line, of course. The only problem I have is that the number of choices can almost seem like too many, making it more trial and error to find exactly what you're looking for, but, in my opinion, that is a quality problem to have.
The controls for Guild Wars 2 are relatively standard, thus making them pretty simple to learn and, with time, master. The biggest problem I had in my own personal experience was the use of the function keys. This could've been simply because of my laptop I played it on, which requires the press of an Fn key in order to use F1 through F12 as originally intended, but I still found it rather annoying at times. Like most games, you have the ability to bind commands to your own choice of key, which helped alleviate some of the problem. I would also recommend playing without a touchpad as, while you can get used to it, there may be times you find yourself with hand over hand, depending on your dominance and dexterity. All the same, once you get used to the hotkeys and positioning for your hand, the controls themselves don't feel out of place for this sort of game.
I'm judging this by how effective a player can be not only with their choice class and abilities, but their own timing and positioning. Perhaps most notable for me are Elementalists on a World vs. World map. With swift and accurate fingers, they can dash across the area, leaving trails of hazards for their would-be pursuers to either dodge or walk through. The majority of my own experience has been with a Necromancer who walks around and commands a small group of minions. Skills within Guild Wars 2 build on their own strengths and, with the right synergy, can be devastating. Some experimentation may be required to find what fits best for a given situation, but the user can be just as important as the character they are using.
Team Play 7.5/10
Team play in Guild Wars 2 is an interesting topic which, more often than not, revolves around a certain objective. Structured Player vs. Player may have you duking it out for kills and territories, but on the larger scale World vs. World or even the overworld, unless you bring a friend or make friends, you may find yourself walking around either looking for a group that's going for an event or trying to stay ahead of a several minor battles. One on one's are common, and the largest team on team fights are mostly were all three of the worlds matched up together are present. That being said, if you find yourself within a group, whether it be for a dungeon, capturing a tower, or completing a major event, you usually are among good people. Guild events and activities also boost team play experiences, given that you find a guild that you can feel a part of instead of just another member.
And with that, my final score for Guild Wars 2 is 47/60. I recommend trying it out to anyone who has been curious about it, or if you're just looking for an MMO that allows you to tell your own story. It is a game that I feel many people will enjoy even if they find themselves travelling around the game alone, as there is plenty to see and do.